Announced last week, the taskforce aimed to solve medium and long-term export issues plaguing the Scottish seafood industry. Scottish government would be represented in meetings at ministerial and official level.
Fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing said the taskforce should focus on three areas to help improve the seafood sector’s situation and mitigate six weeks of ‘relentless bureaucracy’ and trade barriers caused by the last-minute Brexit deal.
This would include ensuring a more consistent approach and understanding of customs arrangements, simplifying the health certificates system for products of animal origin. It would also involve aligning HMRC and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs systems to reduce errors and make processes easier.
Lack of first hand experience
Ewing welcomed the introduction of the taskforce. However, he was disappointed that several leading people directly involved in the sector with first-hand experience of managing current problems had not been included in the taskforce.
“The taskforce must not be a talking shop, it needs to provide urgent solutions and I will continue to fight to make things better for our fishermen and wider seafood sector,” he said. “These are not just ‘teething problems’ this is an entirely new way of working that is a direct consequence of the way the UK Government handled Brexit and we must look at ways to minimise these impacts.
“If it is to be effective, it will need the full engagement of UK departments whose systems and processes are the source of much of the frustration encountered by fishermen and processors in all parts of the UK.”
Last month, the Scottish seafood sector hit ‘rock bottom’ as continued delays at the ports, technology failure and an increase in bureaucracy threaten to make British export undesirable to EU customers.
“We must do what we can to save the jobs, livelihoods and communities that our valuable seafood sector supports, which is why the Scottish government has stepped in and set up a new £6.45m scheme for shellfish catchers and producers and trout farmers,” Ewing added.
“This support for businesses who have been hit hardest by EU Exit and the continuing impacts of COVID-19 will help with the immediate challenges while giving businesses the space to understand the changes they need to make to adapt to these new tougher, trading realities.”